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Council Budget blog focuses on waste collection, street lighting and enquiry services

Issued: 26 May 2010

The Highland Council's budget blog will today (26 May) ask the public if the Council can provide waste collection, street lighting and enquiry services more effectively.

The new posting by Budget Leader Councillor David Alston asks:-

* Can we encourage a reduction in the amount of waste we produce and provide fewer bin collections?

* Can we reduce our street lighting costs?

* How should the Council deal with enquiries for services and information?

Councillor Alston wonders to what extent the public could cope with moving to fortnightly collections of their green wheelie bin which contains non-recylable waste.

He says: "By increasing the amount we recycle, we reduce the amount of waste which goes to landfill. Disposing of waste in a landfill site costs around £100 per tonne, of which £48 is landfill tax. This tax increases by £8 per tonne every year. The level of kerbside recycling has increased significantly over the past five years which has helped get us to a recycling rate of 35%. However we still provide a weekly collection for your non-recyclable waste (also known as 'residual waste'). We seek your views on moving to alternate weekly collections for residual waste and recyclable materials, to encourage the reduction of waste and increase recycling. We currently spend over £5 million on waste collection, and alternate weekly collections could save around £500,000."

On street lighting, he states that the Council has 48,850 street lights across the Highlands, and currently spends £3.9 million maintaining street lighting, traffic lights, and illuminated road signs. The electricity costs are £2 million.

He is seeking views on options for reducing energy costs, by:

* Dimming street lights between 12 midnight and 6am would involve fitting new lamps at a cost of £350 per unit. Overall costs to implement this proposal are estimated at £17m, with annual savings of up to £1m depending on the level of dimming.
* Turning off some street lights between 12 midnight and 6am, based on switching off selected lighting groups in rural areas with less than 100 columns, this would cost £50k to implement, with annual savings of up to £100k.
* Turning off all street lights between 12 midnight and 6am would cost £500k to implement, with annual savings of up to £1.1m. However a 100% switch off may not be achievable for safety reasons.
* Turning off every second street light would cost £200k to implement, and produce up to £1m in annual savings. There would be further costs for the removal of redundant lighting columns

The potential savings up to 2013 are up to £1.1 million.

And thirdly, Councillor Alston is asking if the Council should have fewer face to face contact points and provide more services by telephone and the website, allowing more self service for customers.

The Council currently operates 37 Service Points across the Highlands and has a number of other offices that people can visit. It currently costs around £6 per contact to deal with enquiries face to face, £3.50 to deal with enquiries on the telephone and less than 50p for web site transactions. Last year the Council dealt with over 355,000 face to face contacts.

The blog was launched on Monday 10 May when the public was asked to comment on school issues and it continued in week two by seeking comments on swimming pools, community centres, museums and libraries.

The blog will continue to look at different aspects of the Council's spending every week until the blog closes at the end of June.

The Council is consulting over options that have been proposed by Services to identify budget savings of £36 million over the next three years. These options are set out in two budget documents which can be accessed via the home page of our web site: www.highland.gov.uk/

The next budget consultation meetings take place at the Nevis Centre, Fort William on Monday 31 May and Culloden Academy, Inverness, on Tuesday 1 June.

Other meetings scheduled are:

*9 June: East Sutherland Edderton Ward Forum - Brora

*14 June: Skye Ward Forum - Portree

*16 June: Dingwall and Seaforth Ward Forum - Dingwall

*17 June: Cromarty Firth Ward Forum - Ardross

*18 June: Highland Youth Voice - Sleat, Skye

*21 June: Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh Ward Forum - Lochcarron

*22 June: Inverness City Ward Forum - Town House, Inverness

*23 June: Badenoch and Strathspey Ward Forum - Boat of Garten

*30 June: Nairn Ward Forum - Rosebank Primary, Nairn

© 2010 Highland Public Services Partnership.
Project part-financed by the European Union (European Regional Development Fund) within the INTERREG IIIB Northern Periphery Programme